Jamien Rao and his team turn pieces of scrap into eye-catching utilitarian items that dress up interiors. Here’s a peak into their world of recycling

At Jamien Rao’s office/studio in Sainikpuri, it’s understandable if you feel like a kid inside a candy store. Except that one wouldn’t be staring at candies but beautiful utilitarian artefacts made of recycled materials. “Recycled doesn’t mean shabby and cheap,” insists Jamien, whose firm has designed the interiors of hospitals, corporates and plush villas. In addition, if one is willing, he will minimise wastage and also turn leftovers in construction material into usable articles. Jamien is the face of the studio that has on board a psychologist and a host of creative minds that specialise in arts and crafts.

Jamien’s studio, JNRO, is a standing example of the recycle philosophy. Carved out of wood, the letters J.N.R.O at the entrance double up as bird houses. “We cannot claim to be completely eco-friendly, but we try to re-use materials the best possible way. Barring this desktop (an Apple product) and my Nikon D600, everything you see here is made of recycled material,” he tells us. He isn’t exaggerating.

An acrylic sheet mounted over a layer of bamboo makes up the roof. The walls are cemented on the outer side while the bricks are bare but for the painting on the interiors. A piece of plumbing pipe has been remodelled to serve as a table lamp. Several pieces of measuring tape, discarded at construction sites, have been put together on a metal surface mounted on a granite stone to make a unique lamp shade.

The tables and chairs in his office and the garden and the wrought iron pot holders are all made of discarded materials. Old LP records and floppy discs have been turned into wall clocks, wine bottles have been filled with Christmas lights to become decorative lamps, leftover wooden pieces frame a mirror, water bottles have been turned into pots and a dish antenna doubles up as a canopy in the garden area.

“A lot of manual labour is involved in turned waste material into something usable and aesthetic. First you break down old, unwanted stuff and then re-model them. The process involves planned engineering,” he says. Jamien believes half the battle is won when he convinces his clients to design their spaces in a way that minimises wastage. “For instance, I don’t like curved desk stations and tables. Wood is wasted. I prefer linear structures,” he says.

Jamien has been working as an interior designer since 1998 and has offices in Hyderabad and Pune with an enviable portfolio to boast of: interiors of Dell office, Rock castle bungalow, Devishetty Hospital and many more. As a teen, when Jamien dropped out of school after Standard XI and told his parents he wanted to take up carpentry, he was greeted with disbelief. Jamien’s father, maternal and paternal grandfathers and great-grandfathers all served in the Army. “I was the first one to break away,” laughs Jamien. “As a boy, I had a carpenter’s toolbox and would make all kinds of things. I also tried my hand at welding and fabrication. But it was tough to explain that this is what I wanted to do for a career.”

He got a diploma in carpentry from Boys Town Hyderabad, studied interior designing, welding and fabrication from Pune. “If you are not qualified, you don’t get employed by any architect no matter how good your skill sets are,” says Jamien. In addition, he is also a painter, potter and a guitarist.

Step by step, he proved himself and got clients to trust him. “There are times even people around you might ridicule you. One needs to be strong and determined,” he says.

Arming himself with additional skill sets has its benefits: “I believe that if my staff is unable to do something, I should be able to take over and do it myself.” Jamien shifts between Hyderabad and Pune and has freelancers specialising in batik painting and crafts from all over the country apart from Singapore and New York. He shows us a lampshade made with disposable plastic cups and says, “If there is an idea such as this, we show samples and freelancers make them for us. There are housewives good at batik painting. We use good ones as framed wall hangings. The opportunities are endless.” An extension of the studio is The Stu shop, where recycled artefacts are up for sale. Jamien plans to make these available for purchase through the company’s portal www.jnro.co.in

Jamien knows it’s impossible to avoid scrap but his team minimises wastage. How does a psychologist fit into his team? “I found a lot of difference between what we communicate and what is perceived by clients. A psychologist can help bridge this void, especially in choosing the right colours and textures and making the interiors an extension of the client’s personality,” he explains.

As he takes us on a tour around his studio, he talks about peculiar problems that crop up: “Hyderabadis are Vastu conscious and don’t want old stuff coming into a new house. But many change their minds seeing how we remake stuff,” he says. One problem he still grapples with is his age. “When people read about our work online, they come expecting to meet an elderly gentleman. Very often I get asked ‘who is your boss?’ I tell them this is my firm and it takes them a while to get to trust me.”